Murdered in the name of “Family Honor”

“Honor killings”. Folks, some years ago, while watching a documentary called “Crimes of Honour” I learned that in the Islamic world, hundreds of women are stoned to death, shot, stabbed, strangled or burned to death by male relatives because they are thought to have “dishonoured” their families by engaging in unacceptable relationships. Filmed in Jordan and the West Bank, soon to be Palestine, “Crimes of Honour” documents the terrible reality of femicide-the killing of sisters or daughters who may have lost their virginity, refused an arranged marriage or left an abusive husband. Some of the women featured in the film are hiding from their families. There’s a man who describes his reasons for killing the sister he loved. Also profiled are the handful of women who have committed themselves to human rights and the very personal and immediate protection of young women in danger. It’s a chilling documentary.

The murders of Faten Habash and the Shakirat sisters last month in Ramallah and eastern Jerusalem were the latest in a series of brutal “honor killings” in the Palestinian community. The deaths have prompted demands for a change to laws inherited from the days of Jordanian rule that deem all women to be “minors” under the authority of male relatives and that provide a maximum of six months in prison for killings in defense of “family honor.” Those calls have met with resistance in parliament where “religious” Palestinian MPs argue that reform will lead to a collapse in the moral fabric of society.

According to the Palestinian women’s affairs ministry, 20 girls and women were murdered in honor killings last year and about 50 committed suicide – often under coercion – for “shaming” the family. Another 15 women survived attempts to kill them. Dozens of other killings are covered up each year. “Putting ‘falling into well’ on the death certificate is very common,” said Maha Abu Dayyeh Shamas, director of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling. “We find that the women were strangled and then dumped in the well.”

Islam, the religion of peace. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you.


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